67% of DEIS students want to go to college but lack confidence in ability to do so

By Noel Baker
Senior Reporter and Social Affairs Correspondent

Two-thirds of children from DEIS schools want to go to college, but many lack confidence in their ability do so, according to new research.

A study carried out by academics involving secondary school students and parents also found that social factors were also an obstacle in some cases to moving into higher education - including a fear that they would not fit in.

The latest piece of research, published in the Irish Educational Studies journal, is based on interviews with 70 secondary school students and 25 parents in three locations - Dublin, Cork and Kerry, all involving DEIS schools. Among the 25 parents interviewed, the majority had left school at 16.

Among the students, 66% said they wanted to progress to higher education, but the study also highlighted the main barriers to access.

They included "lack of confidence at the prospect of progressing to higher education", "concerns about 'territorial stigmatization'" and "a sense of not being 'good enough'", as well as financial constraints and guilt at potentially being a financial burden on their families.

Some of the young people said going to higher education felt like "a leap into the unknown" and found it difficult to picture themselves going to college, along with social anxiety and not knowing anyone.

As for the idea of stigma being associated with where someone comes from, one community worker was quoted as saying "young people from this area feel 'if I put down [name of area] and they discover it's a halting site, even if I had 20 degrees, who's going to want me?'"

As well as a sense of "not being good enough" among some young people, two-thirds of respondents said they were not sure if they would get enough points to get a place.

The cost of higher education was also a source of concern for potential entrants and their families. For parents whose children said they wanted to go into higher education, it was the primary concern, while 55% of student respondents agreed that 'I don't know if I will be able to find enough money to pay for fees and living expenses'. Some said they were worried about putting their families under financial pressure.

According to the study 'How Are We Going To Do It? - an exploration of the barriers to access to higher education amongst young people from disadvantaged communities', while the young people liked the idea of college life, "this was countered by a lack of confidence in their own ability to access and participate fully in higher education".

The authors, primarily from the School of Applied Social Studies at University College Cork, said more needed to be done to address the wider issues that impact on access.

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